Wirral 36

Ilkley 20

DESPITE some good performances, Ilkley were beaten by a dominant Wirral side on Saturday.

Conditions were good at Wirral and hopes of a second win were high amongst the travelling band of supporters as Ilkley got off to an energetic start, knocking their opponents back in the tackles and spreading the ball wide with Harry Harrison looking threatening.

This pressure led to two well-taken penalty goals by Chuckie Ramsay, giving Ilkley a 6-0 lead.

In fact, Wirral didn’t get out of their half for the first 10 minutes, at which point their prop Jack Yarker sustained a neck injury and the game was halted for 20 minutes whilst he was attended to and taken from the field.

This break seemed to work better for Wirral as their scrummaging took control and they began to batter their way upfield, using their forwards to good effect.

Ilkley’s tackling was up to it with Harry Wales, Ollie Holtam and Joe Lowes to the fore.

However, more pressure from the Wirral forwards earned them a penalty, converted by Annetts.

Ilkley were then briefly back on attack with a good break by Harrison before Wirral drove hard again through their forwards gaining two scrums near Ilkley’s line, the second of which led to No 8 Reeve going over for a well taken try, converted by Annetts.

From the kick-off, Wirral were back on the attack using forwards and backs to gain ground.

Another scrum near the Ilkley line led to a repeat from Reeve again converted.

Ilkley replaced Floris Van Oekel and Joe Paton with new recruit Harry Swarbrick and Tom Stanley.

Ilkley’s tactic of engaging Wirral’s forwards too much instead of spreading the ball wide clearly wasn’t working and this lesson must be learned.

Ilkley’s present forward size isn’t big enough to continually take on much bigger opponents and they must box clever, playing at pace and spreading the ball wide with aggressive and determined running and backing up.

Ilkley closed out the first half with a further penalty attempt, narrowly missed, leaving the half-time score 17-6 to Wirral.

The second half began with play moving to and fro in midfield with no scoring chances for either side.

Ilkley kicked the ball too much when straight running and taking on opponents would have been a better course of action, and then re-cycling and keeping the pressure on. As it was, Wirral turned on the pressure again and No 10 Harvey burst through to score, converted by Annetts.

At this point, Wirral were clearly in charge and drove this home when they had a good forward drive from a line-out and kick ahead resulting in hooker Gratton scoring, again converted.

Wirral’s forwards were dominant and their backs confidently spread the ball. Their ball retention was very good.

Ilkley tried to turn things round, bringing on Dan Nota at scrum-half for the injured Blake Morgan, moving Swarbrick to the back row for war horse and captain Lowes and returning Paton to prop for Holtam, who sustained a shoulder injury.

However, Wirral pushed Ilkley back with their better tactical kicking forcing another line-out near the Ilkley line.

Another catch and drive gave Gratton his second try, not converted, and at 36-6 Ilkley had to change tactics.

From the kick-off and with no more than 10 minutes to go J-H Johnson caught the ball and ran with purpose, weaving his way through most of the Wirral team before handing on to the supporting Lewis Frazer, who then fed Harrison. He then passed inside to Wales, who stormed over for a brilliant converted try.

Ilkley weren’t finished and good attacking play from the kick-off between forwards and backs brought a try from Harrison, which was converted quickly by Nota.

Ilkley went for another try, but the attack broke down as the whistle went.

The final score 36-20 was a fair reflection of the dominance Wirral enjoyed.

Ilkley must learn to change tactics when their approach isn’t working, especially if they are playing against bigger and heavier opponents until injured and absent players are back to help the cause.

Both Johnson and Harrison had good games with debutant Swarbrick showing up well in difficult circumstances. Holtam put in a mighty shift with the supporting Wales and Ed King making good ground.

This Saturday Ilkley host table topping Billingham at Stacks Field.